REAL PROGRESS

Qatar 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khalifa Khalid Al Rabban, Deputy Chairman of Al Rabban Holding, on market saturation in the construction sector and the need for infrastructure to keep up with Qatar's growth.

Khalifa Khalid Al Rabban
BIOGRAPHY
Having graduated with a BSc, majoring in Marketing from the Lebanese American University (LAU), Khalifa Khalid Al Rabban first worked in the real estate investment arm of the Qatari government. He joined the family business, Al Rabban Holding, as Deputy Chairman in 2009. The Group now includes Rabban Contracting, Rabban Readymix, Rayyan Mineral Water, Al Sarh Real Estate, Rabban Services Co., Arabian Falcon Co., as well as other subsidiaries. Today, as part of the new generation, Khalifa carries on the business using an enterprising strategy, high standards, innovation, and state-of-the-art technology.

What is Al Rabban Holding's core business and in what areas do you hope to grow in the future?

We have three main activities, the first being fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), which is Rayyan and its subsidiaries. The other parts are real estate and construction. We are already in the ready-mix concrete business in construction, and now the family wants to concentrate more on real estate, which is where we see the most opportunity. Even though construction is booming here, the local contractors are not getting much of that business. There are also a lot of companies in Qatar now, and I can't see Qatar being able to absorb this number of foreign companies. The market is quite saturated. Another exciting area is food and beverage. Rayyan's subsidiaries are investing in new products that have not been produced in Qatar before. The big news is that we want to take this company to IPO, to turn it from a family business into a public company. We have had excellent feedback on this plan, although it will take time. It will be an addition to the Qatar Exchange (QE), because the exchange is saturated with real estate companies, banks, and insurance companies. I think ours will be the first FMCG company to be listed, and that is exciting, it is a bit of a change. Perhaps we can be an example for others to go into the market.

What do you want to achieve through the IPO?

It is risky after a certain point for any business to be owned by a single person or family; it is important that there is a diversity of investors and shares. Furthermore, by being listed and going public, you have to make certain changes and reforms to your company structure in terms of corporate governance. This is important to keep the business moving forward. The IPO will change the way that Rayyan is run, from being a family business to being an institutional entity.

What is the strategy behind your real estate division?

Real estate is an extremely strong sector in Qatar, although prices are rising to the point where it is becoming difficult to invest in it. Nevertheless, we have always had our eye on this sector, and it is the backbone for many businesses. As we say in Arabic, real estate gets sick, but it never dies. So this sector is always valuable, and we want to make it our company's backbone as well. It also ties in with the new investments we have coming up in hospitality with Qatar 2022, as Qatar is trying to attract more tourists, especially from neighboring countries.

Tell us about Al Rabban Services, a company that helps international companies come to Qatar.

A lot of companies would like to relocate to Qatar. In conducting our business we have had a lot of inquiries and requests, so we decided to create a division to deal with that demand. It is important to know how to enter Qatar, how to set up here, and how to deal with the regulations. We want to share our expertise and resources. But we are very picky; we receive many requests, but we sign very few deals.

What challenges do you see arising as a result of Qatar's rapid development?

I think infrastructure is a major challenge. Qatar has always hosted large, high profile international events, so it has that experience, but the infrastructure is crucial. You need roads, airports, and other transport routes. The country has grown in a huge way and the number of companies here has grown spectacularly; however, the infrastructure has to keep up. Qatar needs to deliver at the same pace as the speed at which it is growing. The airport took a long time to be delivered, for example, but I hope the port won't take as long.